Shadows of an Empire
Shadows of an Empire
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Book 8 of the Dashkova Memoirs
When the Three Relinquishes the One the Void will Conquer All The wheels of prophecy grind towards the ending of the multiverse, while the gods continue their dance of power. Ben and Kat know the only way to thwart the prophecies is to take the fight to Veles. As the battle unfolds, new revelations put their plans in peril, leaving Kat to make a choice that could tilt the multiverse into the eternal abyss.
- Historical Fantasy
- Supernatural Steampunk
- Myths & Legends
When the Three Relinquishes the One the Void will Conquer All.
The wheels of prophecy grind towards the ending of the multiverse, while the gods continue their dance of power. Ben and Kat know the only way to thwart the prophecies is to take the fight to Veles. As the battle unfolds, new revelations put their plans in peril, leaving Kat to make a choice that could tilt the multiverse into the eternal abyss.
Intro Into Chapter One
Intro Into Chapter One
The Siberian Destiny slid through the predawn air above Moscow, hidden in a cloud that looked black from the ground. The airship circled over the city, patiently scouting.
The onion domes of St. Basil's Cathedral were fat spears against the sky. The horizon was painted in the colors of blood and war over the Kremlin, the grand fortress inside the city. Despite the early hour, steam carriages busied through the streets like ants readying to march. Gas lights flickered on—the eyes of the city awakening.
Captain Iskly tapped on the steering mechanism. "Circle again? The sunrise will expose us soon, cloud or no cloud."
We were spread out along the windows in the pilot room: Ben Franklin, Anastasia, Brassy, and I.
"Does anyone see it?" asked Ben.
"It's so dark down there," said Brassy, face pressed against the window on the eastern side.
"The krasnaya ploschard is empty, Mother," said Ana.
"It has to be down there. Those soldiers said the portal was four meters tall. It's the only place it would make sense," I said.
The center of Red Square was a great island of darkness.
"Maybe those soldiers were lying, or mistaken. Veles could have placed it in a building," said Ben.
"Go lower, Captain," I said. "Right above that central area, where none of the steam carriages dare to travel."
"We shouldn't risk it. They'll know we're an airship by the sound if we go lower," said Ben. "Better that Veles doesn't know we're here."
"Veles knows we're here. I think he knew we were coming the moment the storm wall fell," I said.
The airship's engines changed pitch as it circled around towards the middle of Red Square. It felt strange returning to Moscow as an enemy of the state. Then again, a lot of odd things had happened recently. With the help of a dragon, my daughter, and Ben Franklin, I'd killed the Jörmungandr—the Serpent That Heralded the End of the World.
Now, we had to sneak through the portal to Veles' realm so we could find a way to destroy it. It was a point of disagreement between Ana and I. She thought we should stay on this side of the portal, for safety and so we wouldn't get trapped when we destroyed it. Because of the prophecies in my head, I knew that wasn't an option. We had to go through it or fail.
Ever since the Jörmungandr had died, the prophecies had been restless. At times, images flashed into my head, giving me glimpses of possible futures. I'd ignored them as much as I could, knowing that they'd come from the Gamayun, whose sole desire was to destroy the multiverse.
Other concerns lurked in our near future. Before she'd sacrificed herself to save Ben Franklin, Rowan Blade, one of the witches of Baba Yaga's hut, told me I was destined to destroy her and her sisters. After hearing what Rowan had done to deserve that fate, I had no doubt that I would not hesitate. Especially if it was Neva, the original witch, who we would have to contend with. For all I knew, Neva was in the repaired hut, actively working to thwart us.
When the engines groaned as if a great weight was bearing down on them, I knew we had found the portal.
Ben spoke right after. "I see it. Or rather, I don't see it, but its outline is there on the stones. It must be made of the same stuff that Veles used for his castle."
We all rushed to his side of the pilot's room. Sure enough, there seemed to be a hole in the shadows, where something large lurked.
The airship groaned again, steel tortured by unseen forces.
"You can take us up, Captain Iskly," I said.
The captain grunted back, "I was already trying. This thing is trying to pull us down."
We were circling lower. Ben leapt to the captain's side. "Quickly, give it full power. I should have known there was a reason the steam carriages were avoiding it."
"But someone might hear the airship," said Ana.
"Better to hear it than crash in the middle of Red Square," said Ben as he grunted.
The captain increased power to the engines and they cavitated, clunking as if the gods were hitting them with a great hammer. For the space of a few heartbeats, I thought we wouldn't escape the portal's pull. Then the ship lifted into the air, putting my stomach into my throat.
"Oh dear," said Brassy, sinking to her knees.
The vertigo was horrendous. It seemed to affect everyone, though Ben and Captain Iskly kept to their task through it. Only once we had returned to the clear space above the skies did I finally relax.
"It felt like I was going to be sucked into a vortex," said Ana, holding her stomach.
"That might have been what was happening. Who knows what forces the portal creates when it's not bridging between two universes," said Ben.
"Let's head north. You can leave us there, Captain Iskly. The four of us will head into the city on foot," I said.
"It will only be the two of us," said Ben. His blond hair had grown long and had fallen into his eyes. He knocked it out of the way and winked.
"What is this?" I asked. When I glanced to Ana and Brassy, they gave me succinct nods, indicating they were in on Ben's conspiracy. "I only just reunite with my daughter and now you're sending her away?"
"Ben asked us to do something for him," said Ana, who smiled at Brassy.
The former bawdy girl looked embarrassed, which confused me.
"Let me guess," I said. "You're not going to tell me because of the prophecies."
"In case we are captured. The less that know, the better," said Ben.
"Can I at least know the general intent of this secret mission?" I asked.
"Even if we destroy the portal, we have to prepare for a world filled with the supernatural. One that has pitted the Russian Empire against the world. Assuming the shield goes down once we are successful at our task, there will be many repercussions of their conquests. And besides, it's fun to keep secrets from you, Kat, because I know it makes you a little mad," said Ben.
"I will remember that, Benjamin Franklin, and I will get you back for it," I said, pointing at him. "I'm not sure how, but you will regret it."
"Life would be rather boring without the possibility of regrets," he said. "Though my preference is regrets from action, rather than inaction."
I looked to my daughter. She looked tired. The scar on her face made one eye droop. Her hair had more gray in it than when we'd first met in Siberia.
"I guess this is for the best then," I said, hoping their task was less dangerous than ours. "We should gather our things. Captain Iskly won't be able to land long without drawing attention."
"Speaking of that," said Ben with a smirk, "I have a disguise for our journey to the portal."
"Am I going to regret this?" I asked.
Ben raised one eyebrow. "It depends on how well you remember how to curse."